January 21, 2021 Meeting

The fourth meeting of the 2020-2021 year was held virtually via Google Meet. Our guest speaker was Dan Byrd, NWS Jackson incident meteorologist.

Meeting Minutes

Call to Order
The fourth meeting of the 2020-2021 AMS/NWA chapter occurred on January 21, 2021 virtually via Google Meet. The meeting was called to order at 7:06pm by President Thomas Winesett.

Recording Secretary Joanne Culin took note of the number present. In total, there were 9 attendees.

Minutes Approval
Given the virtual format of the meeting, we did not cover minutes from the previous meeting.

New Business
Our guest speaker for the evening was NWS Jackson forecaster and Incident Meteorologist (IMET) Dan Byrd. He gave a history of the fire weather services. In 1914, the United States Weather Bureau issued its first fire weather forecast and two years later established a fire weather service in the western United States. In the 1920s and 1930s, fire weather forecasting expanded to all offices in the western United States and some offices in the east began producing them as well. As the need for more fire weather forecasting continued, fire weather vans were deployed, and RAWS was developed by fire weather agencies. In the 1980s, the first National Fire Weather Forecasters Course was offered and the first federal interagency agreement was developed that defined the NWS fire weather services nationwide. He described early equipment used by on site fire weather forecasters. In the early 1990s, there was an increasing use of IMETs for all hazards when a tanker car derailment dumped insecticide into the Sacramento River. An IMET was requested to provide onsite weather support to response and recovery agencies at this major spill.

Dan then discussed where the IMET falls in the Incident Command structure, which is as a technical specialist in the Planning section. He also talked about being at the fire camp, how living and sleeping arrangements are set up. Sometimes you get a hotel but most of the time you are camping or in the back of your car. Schedule is demanding as there are long days and it is typically a 14 day dispatch with travel days on either side. There is short notice before dispatches, usually a few hours to a day and you are always wondering when the phone will ring for a dispatch which can and will disrupt your personal plans. It has challenging working conditions: stressful, equipment issues, not usually a typical “office setting”.
This is a typical schedule for IMET duty:

0445 – Rise and shine
0530 – Pre-ops briefing with operations
0600 – Crew Briefing
0700 – Radio briefing to the crews in the field
1300 – Tactics meeting with Plans Chief
1800 – Night operations briefing
1900 – Planning briefing
2000 – IAP (Incident Operations Plan) parts due.
2200 – Pass out

Dan has been an IMET for about 16 years. To be an IMET, you have to go through training that is offered every year. You have to be a NWS employee, do 21 days of in the field training with another trainer. Some people wish to do it longer to get more experience. They wear regular masks. Work 16 hour days. He has PPE equipment: pants, shirt, helmet, gloves, boots they have to wear if in the fire line.

Dan also serves as an Air Resource Advisor. His main job is to provide air quality forecasts for communities around the fire. He sets up smoke monitors, purple air monitors. There are about 100 or so Air Resource Advisors, but only a few in the NWS. Most of them are in the forest service or work in the air quality realm of the state. Dan went to do this task/role in Denver in 2020. The program has only been around for a few years as more and more wildfires occur.

The meeting concluded around 8:06pm.

Minutes were submitted by Joanne Culin, Recording Secretary.

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